Gardening season is here, and around Douglas County, it seems there may be more home vegetable gardens this year.

Garden centers report seeing plenty of new faces, especially from those who want to grow vegetables. They're snapping up seed potatoes, onion sets, and pea seed and carrots, as well as loads of black dirt and fruit trees. Maybe it's because they're afraid the coronavirus pandemic will cause shortages, or maybe they're bored because so many places have shut down.

"I've never seen so many people garden in my life," said Lynelle Brickweg, owner of Colorful Seasons Garden Center. "The phone is ringing off the hook."

There's a lot to know about gardening, from soil types and soil health to when and how to plant, how to tend a garden, how to deter pests and when to harvest. There are early season plants, like radishes and peas, that prefer cool weather, and later season plants like sweet corn and tomatoes that grow best when it's hot.

Lori Schultz, owner of Anderson Florist & Greenhouse, said that between sterilizing carts and directing foot traffic, she too is busy coaching customers on what to grow. One young girl had never grown vegetables before, so Schultz directed her to the easy crops: beans, lettuces and potatoes, especially.

She enjoys teaching, she said. "That's how they learn and that's how they pass it on to the next generation."

University of Minnesota Extension educator Robin Trott said she too is noticing that more people are interested in growing their own food.

"Absolutely yes!" she said. "Many people who have never gardened before are interested in growing vegetables this year."

Those who have only grown ornamentals are now throwing in some veggies as well, she said.

Sometimes those walking in might not plan to grow anything themselves. They're just hankering for a dose of color and the smell of plants after months of snow and cold, and they stand and admire the baskets of petunias and geraniums.

Those who don't want to garden might be interested in knowing that the Alexandria Farmers Market will open on Saturdays beginning Saturday, May 9, from 9 a.m to noon near Big Ole. Market manager Ron Branch said there will likely be asparagus, radishes and bedding plants at the early markets, followed by more produce as the season progresses.

And while garden centers and farmers markets are among the few places open to the public because of the pandemic, customers and sellers are asked to follow social distancing rules. Many are wearing masks, and the farmers market is adding a hand washing station.